Dealing With the Digital Accounts of the Dead

Should the executor or administrator of an estate have access to the digital accounts of the deceased? Or should those accounts, which often include social media, be off limits?

At least five states in recent years have enacted laws allowing an executor or administrator to obtain access to a decedent's digital accounts. The laws differ in the type of online accounts addressed, with some laws only covering email accounts while others authorize control of a decedent's blog, Facebook, or Twitter account.

At least ten states-including Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, and Oregon-are addressing the issue in the current legislative session.

A Virginia bill headed to the governor's desk would allow access to the accounts of deceased minors. Virginia's bill notably limits its coverage to deceased minors, but that appears so far to be the exception, rather than the norm among bills addressing the issue.

A committee convened by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State laws has been discussing whether to draft a proposed uniform law on the issue to send to the states. Alternatively, the committee may decide instead to propose amendments to the Uniform Probate Code, Uniform Trust Code, Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act, and the Uniform Power of Attorney Act. The committee met Feb. 15-16 in Washington to discuss its current proposed draft.

Copyright 2013, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.